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And then there were 10 -- unexpected diversity in New Zealand kanuka genus Kunzea
Date:8/26/2014

At the stroke of a pen a New Zealand endemic tree has for the last 31 years been incorrectly regarded the same as a group of 'weedy' Australian shrubs and small trees. A New Zealand botanist has completed a 15-year study to reveal some surprises and discover astonishing cryptic diversity behind what was long considered a single tree species. The study was published in the open access journal PhytoKeys.

Known to botanists as Kunzea ericoides, this species was one of the many discoveries made in the north-western South Island of New Zealand by Jules Sbastien Csar Dumont d'Urville during the first voyage of the Astrolabe (1826-1829).

Initially described by French Professor of botany Achille Richard as Leptospermum ericoides, this species and the allied New Zealand endemic Leptospermum sinclairii were merged in 1983 with three other Australian species under the oldest available name (L. ericoides) as a new combination in the related genus Kunzea.

The saying that 'bad taxonomy kills' could not be more true, as the decision to merge the Australian and New Zealand species into the one shared species Kunzea ericoides resulted in absolute mayhem as a range of important New Zealand trees and shrubs were now regarded as identical to their distant Australian relatives all of which are serious agricultural pests known there as Burgan.

The present study draws on data obtained from experimental hybridisations, cytological investigations, modern molecular analyses and ecological studies published elsewhere by the author of this revision Dr Peter J. de Lange. The PhytoKeys treatment by de Lange concludes that Kunzea ericoides is not shared between Australia and New Zealand; confirms the distinctiveness of the narrow-range rhyolite rock endemic K. sinclairii; and elevates another much misunderstood
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Contact: Peter J. de Lange
pdelange@doc.govt.nz
Pensoft Publishers
Source:Eurekalert  

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